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Changes In PSSA Prep Will Minimize Time Students Spend On Standardized Tests

Alberto G.
State officials announced Monday that Pennsylvania students will spend a day-and-a-half less each year preparing for standardized tests.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education has announced changes to the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, or PSSA, to reduce the time kids spend studying for the standardized achievement test in the classroom. 

The PSSA is taken by students in grades 3 through 8 to assess their skills in language arts, science and math.

Before the change, students spent about eight full school days a year prepping for the exam in the classroom. Beginning this school year, that time will be slashed 20 to 25 percent depending on the age, bringing the time down to about six-and-a-half days.

To accommodate the minimized time spent prepping for the PSSA, the test itself will be cut down. The math assessment will be shortened by 48 minutes, the English language arts exam will be cut by 45 minutes and the science assessment will be shortened by 22 minutes.

At the conference Monday, Gov. Tom Wolf said the decision to change the exam came from complaints by students and teachers that the amount of time spent in the classroom prepping for the exam was taking away valuable learning time.

Linda Hippert, executive director of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, which works with 42 school districts in Allegheny County, said the change will benefit Pennsylvania's kids.

"This allows more time for educational activities that have real meaning for them in their future as they move toward their educational goals," she said.

She said the value in hands-on learning is more beneficial for kids than learning to pass a standardized test.

Hippert was not the only educator to come out in support of the change. Tamara Willis, superintendent of Susquehanna Township School District, spoke alongside Wolf in favor of the new rules. The Pennsylvania State Education Association also commended the Wolf administration for the change.

"Gov. Wolf today reaffirmed what educators have been saying for a long time -- that too much emphasis on standardized testing interferes with teaching and learning," PSEA vice president Dolores McCracken said in a press release.

Officials with the Wolf administration said they do not think that cutting down the exam will set a lower standard for Pennsylvania students, and Hippert agreed. The content difficulty on the PSSA will stay the same, the test will just be shorter.

"We realize that students will have to take standardized tests as they move throughout their post-secondary education," Hippert said. "But we also know there's so much meaning in what they're actually doing in the classroom, and there should be minimal distractions to that."

(Photo Credit: Alberto G./Flickr)